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Burke’s Best Bets: Conference Championship Weekend

Record:

ATS & O/U’s: 11-10-3      Parlays: 2-2      Teasers: 3-1

*ATS = Against the spread & SU = Straight up*

 

Alright, everybody, we are back to the basics this week. Apologies for getting lazy the last few weeks and only tweeting the picks, but we are getting back on track for the remainder of the season.

Unfortunately it was a tough go this past week finishing 2-3, I was betting a little more so with my heart than head, which is a rookie mistake. There’s just something about Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck in the postseason that gets me going. Nevertheless, let’s focus on this upcoming weekend.

 

New Orleans vs. Los Angeles (Saints -3 O/U 57)

A replica rematch from week nine is upon us as the Rams head to New Orleans to take on the Saints. In that week nine matchup it was the home team who was victorious with the Saints winning 45-35. Drew Brees was the standout performer as he threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover. New Orleans easily covered the closing -1.5 point line in that game, but the question is if they can cover once again.

For most of this week the line has been at Saints -3.5, but as the week went on it dropped to Saints -3 on various different sites. This is one of those games where, depending on what side you are on, you want to get the best bang for your buck. So I suggest shopping around to find the best edge.

Dome-Field Advantage:

To be honest I look for any excuse to say dome-field advantage, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a real thing for Head Coach Sean Payton and his men. The Saints are now 6-0 all time in home playoff games, following their 20-14 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs, the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s pretty hard to ignore the dominance the Saints have had at home this season as they currently have a 7-2 record at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And, in its last 17 games at home, New Orleans is 15-2 SU.

However, on the other sideline, the Rams have quite the impressive road record themselves as they stand at 6-2 away from the Coliseum this season. And, in its last 11 games, the Rams are 9-2 SU on the road.

I imagine those numbers might make it pretty hard to form a conclusion with this matchup, so let me bring up some digits that will sway you in the right direction…

AFC/NFC Championship games over the last five seasons:

Home teams:

– SU: 10-0

– ATS: 8-2

 

Now those are some stats that jump off the page.

Other notable records for both teams:

– Saints are 10-8 ATS overall

– Saints are 4-5 ATS at home

– Rams are 8-7-2 ATS overall

– Rams are 4-4 ATS away

 

And then the biggie:

– Rams are 0-3 SU & ATS in their last three games on the road against the Saints, with an average losing margin of 18.67

 

Rambling Rams:

Some may choose to ignore those numbers above, and here’s why:

-The Rams, in the regular season, were third in the league in rushing yards averaging 139.4 per game.

-The Rams rushed for 273 yards against the Cowboys, who had the fifth best run defense during the regular season.

It’s been no secret that Los Angeles has a strong running game with fourth-year back Todd Gurley, leading the way and finishing the regular season as the third best rusher in the league with 1251 yards on the ground.

However, it’s been the Rams’ recent acquisition of running back C.J. Anderson, that’s been making headlines over the past few weeks.

Anderson, in his last three games, has rushed for 422 yards and four touchdowns.

This is bad news for the Saints as there will be no time to relax even when Gurley is out of the game.

The good news for New Orleans, though, is that they did finish second in the league in rushing yards per game by allowing just 80.2.

So the most intriguing matchup of this game may very well be on the ground as two dominate sides of the ball will face off on Sunday. And it’s a matter of who will break first.

High-Scoring Affair? 

Most people, when they see this matchup, immediately think to take the over. Two explosive offenses meeting once again after an original matchup that featured a large scoring battle. But before we make a rash decision, let’s take a look at the numbers:

Rams offense:

– Average 32.76 points per game

– Average 28.75 points per game on the road

Rams defense:

– Allow 23.88 points per game

– Allow 19.88 points per game on the road

 

Saints offense:

– Average 30.82 points per game

– Average 32.56 points per game at home

Saints defense:

– Allow 21.59 points per game

– Allow 24.33 point per game at home

 

So, oddly enough, it appears that the Rams defense plays better on the road, whereas the Saints defense plays worse at home.

Both offenses, however, do play better at home.

Notable records:

Saints:

– O/U overall: 7-10

– O/U at home: 5-4

Rams:

– O/U overall: 8-8-1

– O/U on the road: 2-6

Not very convincing for one side versus the other, maybe a little lean to the under if anything. But, there is always that one stat that will push you to one side, and here’s a couple to choose from:

-The total has gone OVER in five of the last six games when these two teams have faced off in New Orleans

-The total has gone OVER in all four of the last NFC Championship games

Where’s the Edge?

The lean is clearly with the Saints and the dome-field advantage, we know this. These teams have met before, and a lot has happened with both squads since then. New Orleans has been more consistent toward the end of the season compared to Los Angeles, but of course the playoffs is a different beast.

A big consideration in this game is also the experience. Whom do you trust more: The veterans, Brees and Payton, that have a Super Bowl victory under their belt, or the young guns, Jared Goff and Sean McVay, that have a tandem a majority of the league is attempting to replicate?

I’m riding with the grizzled vets that have the dome-field advantage and history to back them up. I think it’s too hard to ignore those stats from the past five conference championship games, so I will embrace them.

And as for the O/U, I’m leaning toward the OVER, as I’m sure most people are. Both defenses have the weapons and potential to be a dominant force on any given night, but I think the offenses for both teams overpower the opposing defenses, so I will take the over as well.

I imagine this game will be a shootout with the Saints winning on a late touchdown.

Pick: Saints -3 & OVER 57

 

 

Kansas City vs. New England (Chiefs -3 O/U 56)

Another battle of old vs. new comes on Sunday in Kansas City as Tom Brady and the Patriots take on ketchup-loving Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Both of these teams are coming off impressive wins in the divisional round, with the Chiefs beating the Colts 31-13 and the Pats defeating the Chargers 41-28.

I’ll be honest, I’m on the record saying that I didn’t think either of these teams would reach the Super Bowl, so this is not the most enjoyable pick, but let’s dive in.

History vs. Mystery 

It’s no shock that Brady and Belichick are back in the AFC Championship once again, despite an up and down season. Somehow the Pats just find a way back to where they are most familiar. The historical numbers in this particular spot and matchup favor New England quite heavily:

– Brady and Belichick have gone 8-4 in AFC Championship games

– The Pats are 5-3 SU as an underdog during the Belichick era

The Patriots also have the upper hand in the battle of the headsets:

– Belichick has won six out of the last eight matchups against Andy Reid

 

However, the Chiefs still are a favorable bet at home with the likely MVP in Mahomes. Will the young gun be able to outplay the old bull?

Let’s not forget what happened in the first meeting between these two teams:

The Patriots, at home, defeated the Chiefs 43-40.

– Mahomes went 23/36 for 352 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions

– Brady went 24/35 for 340 yards, with 1 touchdown and no interceptions

 

If there is anything to takeaway from that game it’s that this one is sure to be just as close.

Some other historical stats:

– Patriots are just 3-4 in road playoff games

– Brady has lost the last three AFC Championships that have been played on the road

–  Teams that play on Saturday in the divisional round are 14-4 on Championship Sunday since the 2009 season

– The home team in the AFC title game has won 11 of the past 12

 

The Smaller Picture

Of course a lot of those stats are based on long term trends, so let’s take a look at the more recent numbers:

– New England is 7-1 SU & ATS in its last eight games as an underdog

– New England finished the season 10-7 ATS overall and 3-5 ATS on the road

– New England is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games when playing Kansas City

– New England is 1-5 SU in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Kansas City

 

– Kansas City finished the season 10-6-1 ATS overall and 5-4 ATS at home

– Kansas City is 2-4 ATS in its last six games at home

– Kansas City is 8-1 SU in its last nine games at home

 

Is the Under in Store?

This game is shaping up to be one of the coldest of all time, not exactly ideal conditions for a high scoring battle like the one we witnessed earlier this season between these two teams. So will the opposite occur this time?

– The Chiefs are allowing just 17.4 points in home games this season, which is tied for third-best in the NFL

– The Patriots are averaging 12.2 fewer points per game on the road compared with at home

– According to Pro Football Reference, no team in NFL history has ever cracked the 30-point mark in a game that kicks off in a temperature below zero degrees

– The total has gone UNDER in 11 of Kansas City’s last 14 games at home

– The total has gone UNDER in four of New England’s last five games on the road

 

Consensus

The Patriots looked absolutely dominant last weekend with a couple weeks to prepare under their belt, but I’m not sure if they can handle the potential MVP on the road with the army of Chiefs fans behind him. Don’t get me wrong, Brady and Belichick are the GOATS, and have had plenty of experience in this type of game, but the numbers against them in this particular spot historically and the inconsistent play of the Patriots all season (especially on the road) sway me toward the Mahomes and Reid duo.

I think Reid will finally get the upper hand in a big game against Belichick, with the home field advantage playing a huge factor.

As for the total, I don’t feel absolutely confident in the UNDER. It seems as if the temperature is not going to be as cold as it was originally expected to be. I would definitely lean toward the UNDER, but am most likely going to stay away from it.

I won’t be surprised if this games ends by a field goal and the spread pushes for Kansas City, but I’m still leaning on the home team to cover nonetheless.

Pick: Chiefs -3 

 

**Bonus Parlay**

Pretty obvious with this one, take the Chiefs and Saints ML

Payout odds: +150

 

Good luck to all and let’s make some money, folks.

 

Twitter: @dannyburke5

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